Sunday, 8 November 2020

White Tears / Brown Scars: How White Feminism Betrays Women of Colour by Ruby Hamad

White Tears / Brown Scars: How White Feminism Betrays Women of Colour by Ruby Hamad
Published by Trapeze on the 22nd October 2020.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'How is it that we have been so conditioned to privilege the emotional comfort of white people?'

White tears possess a potency that is rarely acknowledged or commented upon, but they have long been used as a dangerous and insidious tool against people of colour, weaponised in order to invoke sympathy and divert blame. 

Taking us from the slave era, when white women fought in court to keep 'ownership' of their slaves, through centuries of colonialism, when women offered a soft face for brutal tactics, to the modern workplace, in which tears serve as a defense to counter accusations of bias and microaggressions, White Tears/Brown Scars tells a charged story of white women's active participation in campaigns of oppression. It offers a long-overdue validation of the experiences of women of colour and an urgent call-to-arms in the need for true intersectionality.

With rigour and precision, Hamad builds a powerful argument about the legacy of white superiority that we are socialised within, a reality that we must all apprehend in order to fight.

White Tears / Brown Scars is powerfully argued and detailed survey of how white women as a group have fought for increased rights and power for themselves, claiming successes for all women, but actually achieving progess more often than not at the expense of women of colour. Hamad looks back through several centuries of oppressive behaviours to prove her point historically and, most importantly, for all protestations to the contrary, demonstrates how little has actually changed below the surface in the twenty-first century. I was fascinated and appalled by her explanations of how women of colour have typically been portrayed as the exact opposite of any era's prevailing white morality in order to devalue them as people, and how white women generally were and still are active in maintaining the idea of white Western culture as a gold standard, bemoaning our position as lesser than white men yet jealously guarding our 'silver medal' pedestal.

Hamad's words made uncomfortable reading for me, a white British woman. While I don't recall ever having resorted to waterworks myself, I do remember occasions when I felt my hackles rise unjustly at something a woman of colour said or wrote, illogically leaping to the assumption her words were an attack on me personally - just as Hamad illustrates - even when that could obviously not be the intention. I think White Tears / Brown Scars is an important and timely read, perhaps even more so for women such as myself who are trying to make our feminism inclusive, but who aren't aware of this huge ingrained blind spot.

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Ruby Hamad / Politics / Books from Australia

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